News Dedicated to a Healthy Workplace July/August 2013
BarnesCare Moves Metro into Wellness High Gear
Metro Transit of St. Louis and BarnesCare have entered the fast lane of employee wellness. Corporate wellness coordinator Marissa Giuffre is BarnesCare’s on-site expert who is helping to drive culture change at the bi-state area’s major transportation provider.

Some of the programs offered include flu shot clinics; a healthy-heart campaign with screenings so Metro employees know their key heart-health metrics; on-site exercise facilities with up-to-date equipment; fitness classes featuring the latest aerobic offerings like Zumba; and free personal training and weekly weight management classes.

From her office in Metro’s Laclede’s Landing headquarters, the former high school track star lists the diversity of wellness programs ongoing at Metro. “With U.S. Department of Transportation regulations and their focus on safety, our strategy is to be active on all fronts,” she says. “If our employees aren’t healthy, they can’t work -- so we reach out to them where they work.”

Giuffre, who came to St. Louis from a job as a wellness coach in the Chicago area a year and a half ago, includes questions like “Do you have a doctor?” in her outreach efforts. “Hypertension and diabetes are common conditions among the general population and also affect our workforce,” she explains. “If a screening or interview indicates health problems, we try to find out as quickly as possible what’s causing the condition. There may be a problem with medication, or personal health education might be needed. One thing doesn’t vary -- our services are strictly voluntary. It’s up to the employee to use the resources we make available.”

Giuffre says programs like free smoking cessation and mammography van services are extended to Metro employees’ families. “If a wife or husband is seriously ill, that stress will certainly affect the wellbeing of our employee,” she says. “It’s nice to know at the end of the day you’re making a difference.”

Metro’s safety director, Craig Macdonald, says the difference is significant and noticeable. “Having an outside, dedicated wellness professional who is also very knowledgeable about nutrition and intimately understands our programs puts us leaps ahead of where we were as an organization before we started this partnership with BarnesCare,” he says. “Marissa knows the questions to ask.”

Macdonald explains that Giuffre works closely with Metro’s risk management and safety professionals to create a healthier, happier work environment. And that’s not an easy challenge in a culture where studies indicate bus drivers are near the top of the health-risk list. “It’s the nature of the job that bus and light rail drivers tend to be sedentary and have sleep issues associated with rotating schedules and odd-hour shifts,” says Macdonald. “With the help of Marissa and BarnesCare, we believe we’re providing real support and a healthier environment for our people on the transportation frontlines. And the usability and convenience of these programs engages our administrative and office-based staff as well.”

Giuffre, who earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s in biomechanics, prides herself on a holistic approach to wellness. “A healthier you is a happier you,” she says simply. “When health care isn’t available, it gets put on the back burner. So we try to cater to employees’ needs. We bring our programs on site for people working at 4 a.m. or 7 p.m. We’ve even planned grocery store tours for the whole family to educate employees and their families about getting the right nutrition under various circumstances -- including those on a tight budget or on the go, as well as those dealing with hypertension or diabetes.”

Participation in Metro’s annual companywide health-risk assessments has grown significantly for three straight years, Giuffre says. Incentives include a $500 insurance premium discount for employees who remain smoke-free, participate in a biometrics screening, complete a health risk assessment, and receive a flu shot or dental cleaning. This year’s participation was the best yet, with around 800 participants.

The financial impact on insurance costs is harder to measure because of non-work related illnesses, but Giuffre and Macdonald agree that the Metro/BarnesCare partnership is paying off with a healthier workforce. “I know the program is working because I see the faces of employees every day who are empowered to make better choices,” says Giuffre, who practices what she preaches.

“I appreciate how Marissa is always on the move, visiting multiple sites in the bi-state area and really engaging with our employees,” says Macdonald. “I know she’s committed because in 2012 and 2013 Marissa joined the Metro team for the Master the Met run to the top of the Metropolitan Square building in St. Louis.”

Metro and BarnesCare -- running partners for a healthier future.

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